House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Commonwealth Integrity Commission

2:15 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, my constituents tell me they are outraged and disappointed by the sports rorts scandal. Many Australians would be shocked to know that the government's last model for a federal integrity commission is so weak that it would have been unable to investigate the former Minister for Sport for her role in the sports rorts debacle. Prime Minister, can you reassure us that the government's bill for a federal integrity commission will give it the power to investigate scandals such as this?

2:16 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member is I think aware, because of the multiple briefings we've had together, the model that we are proposing—and, as I said, it's very complicated, with 350 pages of draft—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

The model that we are proposing would have standing powers greater than those of a royal commission. So, on both the law enforcement integrity side and the public sector integrity side, the powers that would be available to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission under our design would be greater than those that would exist for a royal commission. This, in effect, would be a standing power of a royal commission that would enable it to investigate known offences, such as abuse of public office but also other criminal offences relating to corruption, right across the public sector—on one side for law enforcement agencies and on the other side for other agencies.

I might note that there was nothing in the recent report of the Auditor-General that suggested anything of the nature that I think was inferred in the question. In fact, the Auditor-General's report made it very, very clear that every single one of the projects that was ultimately approved—pursuant to guidelines, whereby the minister had ultimate discretion—was an eligible project.

Opposition members interjecting

I hear the interjections from members opposite. But it was also the case that in previous grants programs—grants programs, indeed, that were overseen by the Leader of the Opposition—there were multiple approvals of grants which were actually ineligible. There was nothing of that nature in the Auditor-General's report here. But what's also clear is that, under our model, if an Auditor-General, who would be a key referring agency, ever took a view, in any circumstances, that there was the potentiality of an offence of any type having been committed, he could refer that matter up to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, which would have powers greater than a royal commission to investigate.